Marissa Mayer Is Under Fire For A Very Unusual Reason

Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
The tech industry is well-known for its lack of women, and for those women who stick it out long-term, the poor treatment they sometimes have to deal with is well-documented. That is partly what makes the latest scandal within the tech world incredibly unusual.

Jezebel reports that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and other female Yahoo executives are being sued by a former employee for gender discrimination — against men. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the lawsuit claims, “Mayer encouraged and fostered the use of (an employee performance-rating system) to accommodate management’s subjective biases and personal opinions, to the detriment of Yahoo’s male employees." The suit is being brought by Scott Ard, a former editor at Yahoo and current editor-in-chief of the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Ard claims that when former chief marketing officer Kathy Savitt began, Yahoo's editorial leadership was more than 80% male; less than two years later, that same group of managers was more than 80% female. The lawsuit claims that Savitt purposefully hired women, and fired men, on the basis of their gender.

Yahoo spokesperson Carolyn Clark told the San Jose Mercury News that its performance review program helps employees "develop and do their best work," and is built on "fairness." Ard, however, alleges that this system allowed Yahoo to fire employees without reporting that it was conducting a mass layoff, in violation of California law.

Overall, from 2014 to 2015, Yahoo saw a 1% increase in women in leadership roles, from 24% to 25%. And while Yahoo hasn't yet reported its diversity numbers for this year, it was 62% male in 2015.

Whether or or not illegal gender-discriminatory hiring practices were in place within Ard's department, the numbers above would seem to indicate that wasn't the case across the board.

It'll be interesting to follow the outcome of this lawsuit, since it raises some interesting questions. If Silicon Valley firms are being challenged to hire more women, can it be classified as discrimination if men are passed over for jobs in favor of women with the same qualifications? Or are suits like this merely growing pains, and to be expected as men realize what it's been like to be a woman for the past 50 years?
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